Posted 16th November 2012 | 12 Comments

DfT acts to ease Thameslink trains logjam

Thameslink Class 319 train

The trains displaced from Thameslink, which include 344 Class 319 vehicles, are intended for cascades to lines in the north west of England and also possibly to some suburban routes on the GWML

THE DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT has admitted that the continuing logjam over the Thameslink rolling stock deal is now jeopardising future electrified services, and has starting the process of procuring new dual-voltage trains elsewhere.

However, the DfT gave Southern the task of announcing the development, even though the new trains involved would be unlikely to enter service until after the Southern franchise had ended in 2015 and been combined with Thameslink.

Southern said it was 'developing proposals with the Department for a new procurement competition for 116 electric (dual voltage) new rolling stock vehicles, with an option for a further 100'.

An option with Bombardier for 40 more Class 377/6 vehicles to be added to the existing order for 130 is also being exercised, which means more work for the Bombardier plant at Litchurch Lane in Derby.

Southern added that 'the new procurement competition will assist the Department's ability to address the wider rolling stock needs of the country'.

The Department for Transport confirmed that cascades to newly-electrified lines were part of the plan. A spokesman told Railnews: "The potential procurement for 116 vehicles and options for a further 100 could enable the early cascade of rolling stock to initiate the delivery of the electrification schemes outlined in HLOS, that would otherwise be delayed because of the current schedule for the delivery of the Thameslink Rolling Stock Programme.”

In fact, the £1.4 billion procurement of some 1,150 vehicles for Thameslink, for which Siemens is the preferred bidder, is still looking uncertain, as rumours persist that the German company is facing difficulties in raising necessary private sector funding because of the crisis in the Eurozone.

Confirmation of the order has been delayed repeatedly, and transport minister Simon Burns admitted at the end of October that the Department was 'assessing options'. He told MPs: "Department officials are working with Siemens to secure financial close early in the new year for the new trains for Thameslink. I am aware of the consequences of failing to conclude the procurement and as you would expect, my Department is closely monitoring progress, including assessing options were it not possible to secure financial close."

Speculation has now started about what role the additional trains would play. The present Southern network would be unlikely to need another 216 vehicles, and the fact that they would be dual-voltage would make them suitable for the core Thameslink route, which involves a change of traction current at Farringdon.

These new trains, no matter who builds them, would need to be sufficiently nimble to help provide the planned peak frequency on the core Thameslink route of 24 trains an hour. Siemens has been developing its Desiro City concept to meet these requirements, by making the trains 25 per cent lighter and giving them enhanced acceleration.

The trains displaced from Thameslink, which presently include 344 Class 319 vehicles, are intended for cascades to lines in the north west of England and also possibly to some suburban routes on the Great Western Main Line. There had been warnings that the delay in procuring new rolling stock for Thameslink could mean that some of these lines would be electrified before any electric trains were available for them.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Sean Hamerton, Shoreham by Sea

    Having worked on extremely similar stock to 319s, I expect it would be relatively straightforward to retrofit selective door opening (SDO) to provide for short platform operations. The trains themselves are quite simple and were built with plenty of spare wiring which has been successfully used in modifications to similar stock, such as those I work on.

  • Anthea Masey, London

    I would like to see the Sutton Wimbledon loop line service on Thameslink transferred to the Overground

  • Deltic 08, Ripon

    Why does the North always have to put up with crappy cast-off cascades from the South. 319s are dual voltage. There is very little DC in the North but lots south of the Thames. Keep these units in the South and let the North have new AC only 377s or 379s in time for completion of electrification from September 2013 onwards.

  • lorentz, London

    Die Spiegel International has a couple of interesting articles, one of which states that the start of the proposed ICE3 service between Lonon and Frankfurt has now been put back to 2016

  • jak jaye, sutton coldfield

    Re:Mike B the 319s need more than re-engineering,how can you turn rubbish into gold? they have been worked into the ground since introduction and good luck to the NW and Sth Wales when they (eventually) get them.
    And in answer to Melvyn W 'Whats the point of ROSCOs?' the point is they are a gigantic cash cow that have made millions for the banks that now own them,when will anyone in the DFT/Railway media own up to the simple truth that privatisation is and has been an utter disaster.
    If its to contunue,let the TOCs run the whole show(tracks,signalling,rolling stock orders) isnt that what 'privately owned' means?

  • Tom Watson, Milton Keynes

    One of the main sticking areas is financing these trains, as I understand it.

    When you include the delays over IEP, the franchise shambles and now this, you begin to wonder if the DfT is in meltdown. These are people who are "supposed" to be running the country.

    It's shambolic and with every delayed decision, confidence in this Government ebbs away.

  • MikeB, Liverpool

    In answer to CampFreddie. All platforms in connection with Phases 1 and 2 of the North West electrification have already been lengthened, to accomodate 4-car trains. I have since heard that there is a problem relating to the pantographs on the Class 319s, which may not be suitable for the modern overhead lines.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    This Thameslink saga suggests that orders for rolling stock need to come with guarantees of funding and a time limit to fulfil the negotiations to actuually build the trains. It was said that because Siemens is also a bank that this meant it had better credit ratings that companies like Bombardier that are plain manufacturers of trains and so have a lower credit ranking than a bank!!

    Its also worth asking in these days of Alliences what is the point of ROSCOs? Given that they have never filled the dream of actually ordering trains on an on going basis as private bus companies do, so is it time to do away with them and set up a better system of rolling stock provision?

    As for this news its not surprising given the mess we have seen recently and the way rolling stock orders go from famine to feast and back again a process that has killed of competition in our country.

    It also raises the question that on the WCML we heard the saying "anyone but Branson" so with the government trying to build its case for the Hitachi train asembly plant could we also have "anyone but Bombardier" also lurking in the DFT?

    The excellent trains now running on the London Overground surely suggests expansion of the Overground network under TFL/Mayor of London with a board including representatives from counties surrounding London should be seriously considered which would add Thameslink to Crossrail!

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire

    My sole comment is: For goodness' sake Westminster and Whitehall, GET A MOVE ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cut out all those delaying procedures which you love so much; this is the 21st Century! It's all sloth, delay, spoil!

  • CampFreddie, Basingstoke

    the only real issue maybe the fact of signalling interference which should be dealt with when the wires go up, platform extension would be needed as a 319 is a 4 car unit and sure some north west platforms can only cope with 2 or 3 coach trains

  • T Price, Bestwood Village

    What is there to discuss?
    If Siemens are holding things up then disqualify them and hand the contract to Bombardier.
    No embarrassing U-turn for the government, Bombardier's happy, and Siemens snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
    Sounds like a good result to me!

  • MikeB, Liverpool

    With regard to the Class 319s, a story has been circulating to the effect that these units may not now be "suitable" for the North West - without substantial re-engineering. Can anyone throw any light on this rumour?